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Joseph Lister Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister, (5 April 1827 10 February 1912), known as Sir Joseph Lister,

, Bt., between 1883 and 1897, was a British surgeon and a pioneer of antiseptic surgery. By applying Louis Pasteur's advances in microbiology, he promoted the idea of sterile surgery while working at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Lister successfully introduced carbolic acid (now known as phenol) to sterilise surgical instruments and to clean wounds, which led to a reduction in post-operative infections and made surgery safer for patients. Early life and education Lister came from a prosperous Quaker home in Upton, Essex, a son of Joseph Jackson Lister, a pioneer of achromatic object lenses for the compound microscope. At Quaker schools, he became a fluent reader of French and German, which were also the leading languages of medical research. As a teenager, Lister attended Grove House School Tottenham, studying mathematics, natural science, and languages. He attended University College London, he initially studied botany and obtained a bachelor of Arts degree in 1847. He registered as a medical student and graduated with honours as Bachelor of Medicine, subsequently entering the Royal College of Surgeons at the age of 26. In

1854, Lister became first assistant to surgeon James Syme at the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in Scotland. In 1867, Lister championed the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic, such that it became the first widely used antiseptic in surgery. He first suspected it would prove an adequate disinfectant because it was used to ease the stench from fields irrigated with sewage waste. Career Until Lister's studies of surgery most people believed that chemical damage from exposures to bad air (miasma) was responsible for infections in wounds. Hospital wards were occasionally aired out at midday as a precaution against the spread of infection via miasma, but facilities for washing hands or a patient's wounds were not available. A surgeon was not required to wash his hands before seeing a patient because such practices were not considered necessary to avoid infection. Despite the work of Ignaz Semmelweis and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., hospitals practised surgery under unsanitary conditions. Surgeons of the time referred to the "good old surgical stink" and took pride in the accumulated stains on their unwashed operating gowns as a display of their experience. Listers house surgeon, St. Clair Thompson, recounted that Lister himself used to operate in his street clothes, wearing the same blue frock coat that he wore in the dissecting room, stiff with old blood. While he was a professor of surgery at the University of Glasgow, Lister became aware of a paper published by the French chemist Louis Pasteur, showing that rotting and fermentation could occur under anaerobic conditions if micro-organisms were present. Pasteur suggested three methods to eliminate the micro-organisms responsible for gangrene: filtration, exposure to heat, or exposure to chemical solutions. Lister confirmed Pasteur's conclusions with his own experiments and decided to use his findings to develop antiseptic techniques for wounds. As the first two methods suggested by Pasteur were inappropriate for the treatment of human tissue, Lister experimented with the third. Friedlieb Runge (17971867) discovered creosote, which later was processed into carbolic acid. Although Runge had no understanding of how decomposition occurred, the chemical had been used to treat the wood used for railway ties and ships since it protected the wood from rotting. Later, it was used for treating sewage in England, Belgium and Holland. The same chemical was also used to fight parasites and reduce the odors during cholera and cattle plague. Therefore, Lister tested the results of spraying instruments, the surgical incisions, and dressings with a solution of it. Lister found that carbolic acid solution swabbed on wounds remarkably reduced the incidence of gangrene. In August 1865, Lister applied a piece of lint dipped in carbolic acid solution onto the wound of an eleven-year-old boy at Glasgow Infirmary,

who had sustained a compound fracture after a cart wheel had passed over his leg. After four days, he renewed the pad and discovered that no infection had developed, and after a total of six weeks he was amazed to discover that the boy's bones had fused back together, without the danger of suppuration. He subsequently published his results in The Lancet in a series of 6 articles, running from March through July 1867, entitled: "On a new method of treating compound fracture, abscess, etc.: with observation on the conditions suppuration". Later, on 9 August 1867, he read a paper before the British Medical Association in Dublin, on the Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery, which was reprinted in The British Medical Journal. He instructed surgeons under his responsibility to wear clean gloves and wash their hands before and after operations with 5% carbolic acid solutions. Instruments were also washed in the same solution and assistants sprayed the solution in the operating theatre. One of his additional suggestions was to stop using porous natural materials in manufacturing the handles of medical instruments. Lister left Glasgow in 1869, returning to Edinburgh as successor to Syme as Professor of Surgery at the University of Edinburgh, and continued to develop improved methods of antisepsis and asepsis. His fame had spread by then, and audiences of 400 often came to hear him lecture. As the germ theory of disease became more widely accepted, it was realised that infection could be better avoided by preventing bacteria from getting into wounds in the first place. This led to the rise of sterile surgery. Some consider Lister "the father of modern antisepsis". Surgical technique Lister moved from Scotland to King's College Hospital, in London. In 1881 he was elected President of the Clinical Society of London. He also developed a method of repairing kneecaps with metal wire and improved the technique of mastectomy. His discoveries were greatly praised and in 1883 he was created a Baronet, of Park Crescent in the Parish of St Marylebone in the County of Middlesex. In 1897 he was further honoured when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Lister, of Lyme Regis in the County of Dorset. He also became one of the twelve original members of the Order of Merit and a Privy Councillor in the Coronation Honours in 1902.